New community for young Catholics in Wimbledon

Members of the new community
Members of the new community

The Jesuits are supporting a group of young Catholics to create a new community in the former international Jesuit students’ residence in Wimbledon.

With the closure of Heythrop College in October 2018, the community houses in London which supported Jesuit scholastics from round the world are being re-purposed as the province considers and plans for a new and different future ministry in the intellectual apostolate.

Two former participants in what is now called the ‘Faith and Politics Internship’ run by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales have approached Jesuits in Britain  about using one of the houses for a community of young Catholics.

Edward de Quay was an intern in 2013-14.  He now works for Caritas as a development worker.  His role is to work with parishes to explore and then find ways to meet local community needs, for example homelessness or isolation.

“As I talk to parish groups around the country,” Ed explains, “one issue keeps coming up and that is the lack of younger adults engaged in parishes.” Ed learned that the Jesuit community house might soon be empty and proposed an innovative new use.

“The idea is to set a up community of young Catholic professionals aged 22 to 35 who commit to a community ethos and a formation which involves sharing our prayer life, household chores such as cooking, and being active in the local parish for at least two hours a week.”

The local parish is Sacred Heart Edge Hill, served by the Jesuits until 2013.  The parish pastoral council has welcomed the initiative. Fr Frank Turner SJ agreed that “this seems an excellent use for a large residential building for which the Jesuits do not have immediate need, and we hope it will prove to be a real blessing for both the local Catholic community and the residents themselves”.

Clare Purtill was a faith and politics intern during 2016-17 and now works in Whitehall as a civil servant. “We will ask the parish to suggest a wish list and then try to match up the skills and interests of the community members to meet as many needs as possible, anything from catechesis and youth groups, to music or helping with the website,” she explains.

The scheme is already proving popular.  Three young people are already resident, and five will move in in the new year.  There are a few more places available.

“Having been active in the chaplaincy at Durham University [where she studied Theology], and then being involved with the spiritual inputs and social side of the Catholic interns programme, I found I was missing that sense of community and shared faith life,” Clare observes, “so we have been really happy to pursue this idea and have been delighted with the support we have had from both the Jesuits and the parish.”

Catholics aged 22-35 who actively practise their faith through prayer and service, and who might be interested in such a residential option, are welcome to contact Ed for further details: edwarddequay@hotmail.com

The faith and politics internship scheme is welcoming applications for 2018.